I began working with hypertufa to cast pots and stepping stones about a month ago.
Hypertufa is a mix of Portland Cement with other ingredients more commonly used in potting soil, to create a light but durable material with which one can cast pots, birdbaths, stepping stones, troughs and other items for the garden.
Over these past few weeks I’ve experimented with different ways to cast and embellish garden accoutrement. The same much loved friend who went with me to purchase the bulk of the materials has returned to help mix and shape some of the batches.
Each piece sets up for 36 to 48 hours before it is turned out of its mold. Then the pieces continue to dry and cure for several more weeks before coming into service in the garden.
This beautiful trough is from the very first batch I mixed up in March. It is hard, lightweight, and many shades lighter in color than the dark graphite grey of the wet hypertufa mix from which it is formed. Cast on March 24, this piece has had a little more than three weeks of time to cure.
The drainage holes were made with wine corks. The glass shells were pressed into the wet hypertufa when it was cast. There are bits of blue and green glass pressed into the sides which don’t show as much as I had hoped. I’ve since learned to cast pieces like this in sand so that the glass is visible.
I made this very shallow trough to hold succulents. I took cuttings from my succulents in October to decorate pumpkins, and had several cuttings left over which have overwintered in the garage. I made this to hold them, along with freshly taken cuttings from other overwintered succulents, which need cutting back.
These are such large drainage holes that I covered them with mesh fabric, and then with handfuls of pea gravel. Then I filled the container with a good quality potting mix. Since this container is very shallow, I didn’t mix sand into the soil. I want it to to be a little moisture retentive while this trough gets baked in our summer heat.
Next the cuttings were set into the soil , keeping in mind they all will grow much larger. It always amazes me how bits of succulent will survive for months out of soil, often drawing moisture directly out of the air. Many of these pieces simply sat in a plastic bowl for more than 5 months, before I re-planted them today.
So here is our first hypertufa trough, planted up with cuttings, and ready for action in the garden this season.
A light mulch of pea gravel keeps the plants clean, reflects light to help them dry faster after a rain, and protects their roots.
I’m still making a few batches each week. In fact, I mixed up two batches of the hypertufa mix this morning and cast three large planters from them.
Some pieces will find homes in our garden, but others are made for sale at an event next month. I’ll be planting most with a mixture of Caladiums and hardy ferns to live in partial shade. Some will be planted with edible herbs to live in the sun.
I will be offering about a dozen of these hypertufa planters for sale in mid-May.
As these beautiful pieces come out of the basement and into use I’ll show them to you from time to time. My partner has been infinitely patient with the huge mess I’ve made, the hours spent “playing in the mud,” and my very achy back, sore from all of the lifting; but it has been a very rewarding experiment. We’re both pleased with the resulting containers and stepping stones.
And yes, my friend already has a stepping stone we made together in her beautiful garden.
Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014